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Collectively Ramping Up Population Coverage For Prevention Of Women Cancers: A Mass Screening Campaign Experience In Iringa Region Of Tanzania

Posted by On February 4, 2016
By Toun Olateju, MD, MPH Cancer is a global disease with no restrictions across countries or ages. According to the 2013 Global Burden of Disease, breast cancer remains the leading cause of new cancer cases among women globally while cervical cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s World Cancer Day’s theme “We Can. I Can.” is focused on taking collective and individual action against cancer. Recently, I had the opportunity to see how individual women and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partners in Tanzania are inspiring and taking action against cervical and breast cancers to keep the disease from decimating women in the prime of their lives.
Women Wait at Clinic for Screening
Dr. Olateju at the mass screening campaign held in Iringa Region, Tanzania in November 2015.
“We Can” Improve Access to Cancer Care. The over-riding strategy of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is to increase access for women and girls to life-saving interventions to stem the cancer epidemic. One of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon’s strategies is to support countries to conduct mass screening campaigns. These campaigns serve a dual purpose. First, it is an integrated package of services that comprises HIV testing, clinical breast examinations and cervical cancer screening using visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA). Second, thousands of women are reached within a few days and for many women, it is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. In Iringa Region of Tanzania on November 25 and 26, 2015, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partner organizations including the Medical Women’s Association of Tanzania (MEWATA), in collaboration with T-MARC Tanzania and Jhpiego, conducted a mass screening campaign with funding from Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, a Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partner. It was a celebration of women’s health that was chaired by the Regional Commissioner of Iringa, Honorable Madam Amina Juma Masenza.
Toun at Mass Screening Campaign
Women waiting to be screened.
“We Can” Mobilize our Networks to Drive Progress. Various mass media strategies were used, mostly through donations of airtime from national and local television and radio stations, local public address systems to raise awareness in public places, and sensitization of community and religious leaders, to spread the word about the mass screening event, and create demand. Because the event was well-publicized women trooped out in numbers to learn more about breast and cervical cancer, and be screened. “We Can” Build a Quality Cancer Workforce. 18 new health care providers within the Region were trained on VIA and cryotherapy techniques to participate in the mass screening campaign and to be able to continue offering the services after the campaign ended. In total, 48 health providers participated in service delivery on each day of the event. The dedicated doctors and nurses offered a step-wise, integrated package that comprised health talks, provider-initiated counselling and testing for HIV, followed by clinical breast examination to detect breast lesions, and cervical cancer screening using VIA followed by treatment with same-day cryotherapy if needed. The two-day mass screening event took place at two district health facilities within the Region, and without the help of quality healthcare workers, would not have been possible.
Women Register for Screening
Volunteers register women in to be screened.
“I Can” Understand that screening and early detection save lives. Women demonstrated their understanding that cervical cancer is preventable and treatable if discovered early. 1,514 clients were screened for HIV, of which 65 were HIV positive. 1,934 women had clinical breast examinations, of which 51 breast lesions were found. 1,290 women underwent screening for cervical cancer with VIA, 26 were found to have VIA-positive lesions, and 85 percent of these women were able to receive cryotherapy immediately. Women with other cervical or breast lesions were referred to Iringa Referral Regional Hospital for further evaluation and management. We salute our partners who have added their voices and collective resources and actions to combat this global disease. We join other institutions around the world today to raise the bar against cancer. We Can. I Can. WCD_Logo_4c_2   Dr. Olateju is a Country Program Manager for Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.